Herding chickens?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by sbonsai, May 6, 2016.

  1. sbonsai

    sbonsai Out Of The Brooder

    May 6, 2016
    Hi all, new to the forum and new chicken owner. I have enjoyed lurking on this forum, the learning center, and have also purchased a couple of books. One thing that I must have missed in all my reading though is herding 101. We have a run that the chickens stay in during the day while we are at work, when we come home, we let them out for a couple of hours. Getting them back in though is America's Funniest Home Videos type entertainment. They are only 2 months old, which I've read can mean that they are still be a little stubborn. Anyone have any tips on how we can start pointing them in the direction of the coop when they need to be put up?

    I would imagine another issue we have is very related, which is that we are having problems with the chickens getting used to us. We have had them since chicks, but each and every time we try to pick them up, they freak out like they are going to the chopping block.
  2. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon

    Instead of herding (moving away from you), train them to come toward you. A little bit of scratch in a can works wonders. Start conditioning them to the sound of the grains being shaken, then toss out a handful. Do this just in the run a few times a day. You don't need to toss out a lot, just enough they associate the sound with a food reward. It may take a few weeks for a good consistent result, but chickens are very food-motivated. Having them trained to come to the can also comes in handy if a bird gets out....ask me how I know [​IMG]

    they also naturally head back to the coop (or wherever they want to sleep) around dusk. You might use that timing to help get them where you want them to go.
  3. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Peeps are a-peeping Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    x2, the saying is, it's like herding cats. They can be herded if there's a corner or wall to aid you. Moving slowly, inching your way towards the doorway, arms outstretched, until that one bolts and slips by you, than running as fast as you can chasing it every which way, until you are swearing or crying depending on your mood. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Treats are definitely a better way. Make it a routine.
    1 person likes this.
  4. Ballerina Bird

    Ballerina Bird Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 29, 2014
    Treats, treats, treats. Mine will follow me anywhere and do anything if a little scratch or dried worms are on offer. They know if they go in the run when I want them to they will get treats. I'm not sure who has trained whom here :) but I never have trouble bringing them in.
  5. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    You also may be trying to get them into the coop too early in the evening. Wait just a half hour longer before going out to round them up. You may find that they are already in the coop and ready for bed, all on their own.
  6. azjustin

    azjustin Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 1, 2016
    Tucson, AZ

    About 6 months ago, our juvenile chickens would wait until the last sliver of sunlight was gone, long after the older hens had settled in and already been asleep. Now, the younger ones are going to bed earlier, before the sun is down completely.

    Give them more time, they will go to bed on their own when ready.
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Welcome to BYC!

    Yeah, you won't finding Herding 101 because it really can't be done..hahaha!
    As others have said, bribe and lure is much more effective...sometimes.
    Best to not let them out of run unless you don't need them to be back inside until dark.

    Also, they don't really like to be handled much, you can 'train' them but it takes a lot of time, persistence and.....food.
    I have a few that tolerate handling, one seems to seek it out...but most only tolerate it because they've been forced(due to treatments)to learn that they won't die if I pick them up.
  8. DanEP

    DanEP Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 15, 2010
    Cadiz Ky
    Good advice given here the only thing I would add is to only give treats in the run until they are totally trained. to come to you when called.
  9. sbonsai

    sbonsai Out Of The Brooder

    May 6, 2016
    Great advice, the can idea makes sense and is starting to remind me of us having chickens when I was a kid. I'm currently building a better bigger coop, so it looks like from some of the replies, that will help as well.
  10. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Chicken Obsessed

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    Well I have frequently herded mine in. You need a long stick to extend your reach. Open the gate and put a small bit of scratch inside the run. Then take your stick and walk out around the farthest girl. This is a case where slow is faster, you don't want anything panicked or running. Once you get into position, you slowly walk forward until the chickens move away from you toward the coop. Then stop, when they return to pecking, again take a slow step forward until they move again. If one moves trying to get behind you, just reach out your stick and tap the ground in front of the bird, and they will turn and head back to the flock. Again, stop once they start to move, start slowly moving when they stop. Tapping the ground and calling "Hut, Hut" which I don't know if that part works or not, but I always do it.

    In a few minutes, without the flock in a panic, they will reach the gate, see the scratch and be in. If you have one that escapes, ignore that one, once you have the majority in, walk further into the run and pour out more scratch, enough to keep them occupied for a few more minutes. There excitement will be heard by the escape, and that bird will come towards the run, just walk out, not attempting to chase this bird, but rather to get farther from the coop that the escape bird is, if you are far enough from the bird, the birds attention will turn from you and back to the excitement in the run, probably not moving, but looking or pecking. Then step forward, and that bird will move away from you, toward the coop a place of known safety, and some exciting thing to eat. Some birds are hesitant, but again, step forward slowly, extending your arm tapping the ground and calling, and mine will go in. I use a white sorting stick that you can get at the feed store, but any stick will work.

    As to calming your birds down, move slow when in the coop/run, and spend time there NOT trying to pick them up. Just set a chair in there, sit down and watch them. The next day put a bit of feed on the ground a couple feet away from you, and again sit and watch, each day move the feed a bit closer to you, and soon moving slowly, reach out and touch them, if they move off, let them. Eventually they will calm down. Grabbing them will set this back. Patience and slow and quiet movements are the key.

    Mrs K
    Last edited: May 7, 2016

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by